In addition to immunosuppression through the use of drug therapy, patients should adhere to the following categories of disease management principles in order to lessen the negative impacts of lupus — triggers, risk factors and lifestyle.
Specific disease triggers should be avoided:
- Direct sun exposure
- Birth control pills with high levels of estrogen
- Antibiotics classified as sulfonamides (“sulfa drugs”)
- Alfalfa sprouts
Risk factors for artherosclerosis and osteoporosis should be reduced or eliminated:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol and high lipid (fat) levels in the blood
- Lack of calcium and vitamin D intake
- High corticosteroid dosage
Patients must make lifestyle choices to monitor, reduce or ultimately eliminate other risk factors:
- It is important to get adequate rest and conserve energy; thus, patients should identify and treat conditions that could contribute to fatigue, such as over-exercise, depression, hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia
- Infections should be minimized; while common with lupus, they can be mitigated. Patients should seek medical attention not just for identifiable infections, but also for unexplained fevers
- The risk of blood clots should be minimized; thus, balancing rest with an active lifestyle is important, and patients are encouraged to maintain a reasonable level of activity as part of their daily living.
- Stress reduction is key, not only to managing relapses and certain symptoms related to the disease, but also in supporting a patient’s commitment and resolve to ongoing disease management – it can be a ‘long haul’, and it is important patients approach the challenge of a life with lupus positively.